Sacred Heart Parish- The Early Years

The Sacred Heart Parish was part of the old St John’s Parish until the bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr Michael Russell, divided St John’s into three distinct parishes on March 8th 1974 – St John’s, St Joseph & Benildus and the Sacred Heart Parish.

The Sacred Heart Parish stretches from the corner of Poleberry and Ballytruckle out to Katie Reilly’s, up to the Williamstown road, back into town as far as the top of the Folly and down to the corner of Poleberry.

The first parish priest to be appointed was a namesake of the bishop – Fr Michael Russell and, with the help of his curate, Fr Jim Curran, he set about fashioning the people into a united community. The enormous debt, which lay on the parish, as a result of building the church, was identified as the number one problem to be tackled.

While the amount of the debt was almost frightening, and the interest which had to be paid to the bank a tremendous drain on the people, the actual size of the problem presented Fr Russell with a readymade opportunity to create a parish identity and , to use his own words, a chance “to get all shoulders to the wheel”.

Within a few months, a parish committee was in place , the global debt which had been assumed by the three parishes jointly, was divided to allow each parish to tackle its share as it saw fit, and the new parish of the Sacred Heart was coming to life.

It is difficult to appreciate the effect the enormity of the task facing the people. The mid seventies was a very bad period for Waterford, factory closures and redundancies were the order of the day, with interest rates at multiples of what they are today and rising steadily.  All in all, not the best of times to be going before the people and asking them to dig deeper than ever into their pockets.

Undaunted, Fr Russell ably assisted with advice and background information, set about putting in place a structure which would meet the needs of the situation. The new parish committee, under the chairmanship of Johnny Butler, set about organising a weekly envelope collection throughout the parish.

Area meetings were called, and every household got an individual notice asking them to send at least one representative to the meeting. Apart from detailing parish finances, the area meetings were used to send home the message that this was a problem for the people of the parish to solve – the clearing of the debt was OUR problem and together, we would solve it.

In the first twelve months, the committee met fifty three times and every week over 120 people were out doing the weekly collection. With that level of involvement, there was a constant flow of ideas as to how extra funds could be raised.


The Sacred Heart Social Club was established and given the responsibility of organising and running the Car a Month Draw. A Committee was set up which took on the task of selling enough tickets each month to pay for a car and at the same time make a significant profit which would go towards clearing the debt. The Car a Month venture was a huge success and ran for many years, making a significant contribution to the parish.

Through the efforts of parishioners who shared an interest in greyhounds, the parish persuaded the management of Kilcohan to hold its first Charity night in aid of parish funds. Other activities undertaken were sales of work, flag days, Bingo sessions, contributions from the Ursuline Carol Singers and the Ursuline Charity Walk. Clubs operating in the parish held events, or shared some income from normal activities. With such widespread support, the financial problems were quickly brought under control.

While clearing the debt was the number one concern, the social and community needs of the people continued to be catered for by clubs and organisations which had already existed in the area – Sports clubs included Erins’s Own, Johnville, St Otterans Pitch and Putt and the Athletic Club. Scouts and Guides provided activities for young boys and girls while the Senior Citizens Committee, the Social Committee and the St John’s Park Development Committee organised socials in the Sacred Heart Hall.

The Hall, affectionately known as The Tin Shed, was situated in the Ursuline grounds. It had been used as a church prior to the construction of the church and, with the good will of the Ursuline sisters, became a parish hall that housed dances, discos, meetings of the Youth Club and the Pioneers. The Hall gave the people a breathing space to get parish finances on an even keel, prior to taking on the mammoth task of building the Butler Community Centre, which is now a focal point for a wide spectrum of activities. The Sacred Heart Youth/SHY Project has its own premises – immediately beside the Butler Centre and is becoming more and more a part of life in the area for young people.



The Ongoing Story

In 1974, it would have been impossible to foresee the expansion which has taken place in the Sacred Heart Parish, with the number of houses increasing for about 900 to approx. 3,500 in 2008.


Through the years the parish has been served by five Parish Priests – Fr. Michael Russell (1974-1979), Fr. Frank Hopkins (1979-1985), Fr. Tommy Nugent (1985-1989), Fr. Jim Griffin (1989-2001) and Fr. Sean Melody (2001-   ). Associate Priests serving the parish community were Fr. Jim Curran, Fr. Milo Guiry, Fr. Jeremiah Dwyer, Fr. Gerry Condon, Fr. John Connolly, Fr. Martin Keogh, Fr. Conor Kelly and Fr. Gerry Chestnutt.


Since 2001 a Parish Pastoral Council has been established in the Sacred Heart Parish and many Pastoral Groups have been established to help in the day to day service from the parish. In alphabetical order these include Baptism Preparation Team, Care Facility Visitors, Children’s Liturgy Group, Church Cleaning & Maintenance Groups, Finance Committee, Funeral Prayer Group, Hospitality Group, Liturgy Group, Lourdes Guild, Welcoming Group, Youth Council and St. Vincent de Paul Group.


Facilities at the church have been extended through the years to accommodate new levels of service with the Parish Centre being built in 2004/05.

Since the foundation of the parish in 1974 a great community spirit has been built, many friendships have been formed and a real sense of identity developed. The early days were tough times, but all challenges that presented themselves over 35 years have been faced and overcome. Many of those who gave unstintingly of their time and energy through the years are no longer with us. But their achievements are a lasting testimony to their love and concern for the people of the Sacred Heart Parish.